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Future of Affiliate Marketing: 10 Companies On The Front Lines

  • 26 October 2017
  • Dean Schmid

Rubbish click-throughs and shitty impressions, these are the real reasons a sensible company enters into an affiliate agreement. They are feed up with paying for traffic that doesn’t convert.

But affiliate marketing is results based. A publisher might put a banner on their site for Someone reads an article about running with the bulls in Spain, gets inspired, clicks the link, and sinks a few thousand into a holiday.

It doesn’t matter if a million people saw the ad, clicked the link and spent ten minutes thinking about booking, the advertiser isn’t paid until that customer checks out of their hotel.

Affiliate marketing is massive. To put a number to it, U.S. affiliate marketing is worth approximately $5B.

But digital marketing is changing. New platforms and devices are popping up all over the place. If you depend on affiliate marketing for a large portion of your traffic or your income, you’re probably wondering about the future of affiliate marketing.

Future of Affiliate Marketing: 10 Companies On The Front Lines


Ambassador’s unique take on affiliate marketing is all about incentivizing word of mouth and rewarding ambassadors for referrals.

The flexible software lets you reward both the ambassador and the customer with discounts, points, and material things. Brands can run Ambassador campaigns across social media channels and emails.

Why bother getting ordinary people to market your product for you?

We trust our friends and family more than we trust random brands on the internet. Getting advocates on your side can generate sales. Don’t take my word for it, Ambassador has generated over $1.7 billion in LTV.

Profile – Ambassador

Acceleration Partners

Acceleration Partners is one of the largest affiliate marketing companies in the U.S. They have some astonishing numbers behind their efforts, like a billion dollars in revenue generated for the brands they worked with last year.

Stacked up against affiliate networks and programmatic software, Acceleration Partners might seem a little old fashioned. Depending on a brand’s needs they might use these innovative technologies, or they might reach out to publishers directly.

Even as affiliate marketing changes with the introduction of SaaS solutions and marketplaces, there is still a place for big corporate marketing agencies in the future of affiliate marketing.


ShareASale is an affiliate marketing network that has been in the business for over 17 years. This company has kept with the time and nearly two decades on, they are still on the front lines of influencer marketing.

The premise is simple enough, affiliate links and ads are shown on the sites that are on the network. There are over 700,000 affiliates on ShareASale making it one of the largest U.S affiliate networks.

ShareASale has all kinds of metrics and reporting that publishers and merchants can use to track the success of their campaign.


Their real-time tracking lets all parties keep track of when a banner is clicked and a sale is made. The software is straightforward to use and simple to implement, but that’s what small and medium-sized businesses want from an affiliate network.


Kickbooster is an affiliate marketing for Kickstarter and other crowdfunding campaigns. A fully automated referral program seems like a natural fit for the community-based crowdfunding site, and I am sure that small budget startups prefer paying when someone actually backs them as opposed to pouring money into advertisements that often yield more vanity metrics than results

It rewards affiliates 10% of all the pledges they get people to make after clicking on a cookie tracked links Companies can set their own reward percentages.

Kickbooster focuses on recruiting affiliates who have backed the company because they reason that they are more likely to feel passionate about it and be able to convince others to take similar action.

Campaign Marketplace – Kickbooster

Backers can use Kickbooster to recoup what they backed by spreading their affiliate link around and collecting commission.


Affiliate marketing has the highest conversion rate out of all Groupon’s paid marketing channels. To try push it even further they’ve step away from third-party networks and released their very own Groupon Partner Network.

I predict companies will continue this trend of releasing their own affiliate marketing network in the future. It might take some tech talent and cost a bit to get operational, but Groupon says that standardizing their affiliate marketing around the world and not paying third-party affiliate networks makes up for it.  

Right now, the network covers “some of the most popular websites, blogs, and apps” among its network of deal sites. These include Ebates, Upromise by Sallie Mae, Dealnews, Fat Wallet,, and But as Smyth points out, “We hope in the future for this to cover hundreds of thousands of sites, not 10,000.” Sean Symth, VP, told TechCrunch


While Amazon wasn’t the first to launch an affiliate marketing program it was the first to gain widespread recognition. The Amazon associate program was launched in 1996 and let associates place banner ads and text links on their sites. They even had a patent approved on components of its affiliate marketing program.

In 2015 revenue surpassed $100B. Likely, its affiliates generated at least $10B of it, and their affiliate network had over 2 million affiliates in 2015. Crazy, right? For publishers that have the audience and want to monetize their site, Amazon’s associate network is more lucrative than Google’s AdSense, but it might not be as consistent. I don’t want to get into the AdSense vs Affiliate debate. You will just have to settle for this anecdotal statement, ‘Amazon’s associate program is one of the best ways to monetize a site.’

Amazon’s associate program lets affiliates serve native ads and customize the look and feel of banners.  

Amazon Associates


Button is a mobile-based affiliate marketing network run out of New York. Founded in 2014, it has quickly risen to prominence in affiliate marketing’s mobile segment, which like the rest of digital mobile marketing has taken off. Nearly 50% of affiliate-referred traffic originates from a mobile device.

Clever integration with the mobile device allows Button to provide a decent user experience and the result is an affiliate ad that can actually increase how long a user spends in an app by 11%.

Publisher – Button

Building native affiliate links that complement the content has made button one of the most successful affiliate marketplaces out there. It works with apps natively or through a mobile browser.


Kiosked has taken the inbound methodology to heart and created a programmatic advertising platform that respects the user’s experience. It’s nothing major, but in-feed ads that expand when you scroll past them, and small on-screen ads that sit on the bottom of the screen, translate to better ROI and leaves users with a better impression of your brand.

Kiosked is great for affiliate marketing because it can connect to affiliate networks and display affiliate links as native ads. Native ads mean better click-through, more sales, and more money.

In Line Mobile Display Ad – Kiosked

The software turns any image into a storefront. It isn’t intrusive, and one could argue it’s even a little helpful. There is also some advanced tracking tied into the ads that can collect meaningful analytics, so you can ascertain who is clicking on your links.


VigLink is an automated affiliate tool that scans a publisher’s content for product mentions and affiliate opportunities and the displays them as hyperlinks and banner ads without affecting the user’s experience. It’s all done programmatically meaning the ads shown are decided with real-time bidding, and it’s a great tool for publishers who want to quickly monetize a site.

VigLink can convert normal text into a hyperlink and add its own text with affiliate links. The company is currently working with over 300,000 sites and 35,000 merchants.

VigLink isn’t the only company doing something like this, but I think it provides a unique insight into when the future of affiliate marketing might take us. The automated software monetizes a website and lets publishers keep doing what they do best, publishing.

About Dean Schmid